Dulltown, Europe: Today’s instruction is to lie down flat on the floor, stretch out your arms and your legs, open your mouth wide and inhale and exhale two or three times, then stand up again and get back in the post office queue.
An envelope arrived this morning containing a picture postcard of Tower Bridge by night and a couple of pages of sloppily written text. It was from Veronica Crush, writer from the glory days of the Hull Surrealist League, currently living in New York with tall tree surgeon and heir to a multimillion dollar fortune Monty Tick. The envelope was however posted in London; Veronica says that they are in town for the ‘Wimbledon tennis thing’; she says that she and Monty both hate tennis, but they are avoiding Monty’s mum Phillis who is rampaging around New York at present. She also slipped in, in a rather uncharacteristically swanky way, that they shared the royal box as guests of the Duchess of Cornwall yesterday… DC.
The sloppily written text turned out to be another of Veronica’s little mad stories…
Doctor Although leaned forward in his leather and chrome swivel chair, paused for a full minute, peering quizzically at Mr Tapthrow, then slowly removed his heavy framed spectacles, pulled a folded linen handkerchief from his jacket top pocket, unfolded it with a flick of a hairy thick wrist, and pretended to wipe the lenses. To Mr Tapthrow this activity looked very impressive and professional even though he had noticed a few minutes earlier at the start of the session that there were no lenses in the doctor’s spectacles.
The Doctor carried on staring at his patient whilst vigorously rubbing away at the absence of glass in the frames; he even pulled and twisted the handkerchief into a suitable shape to poke through the holes and do a couple of pull-throughs. Throughout this activity his unblinking watery grey eyes never left those of the patient across his well ordered desk. At last he spoke, ‘So, Mr Kelly, how did it make you feel… when you…’
He paused, his gaze flicked down, he dropped his spectacles and handkerchief and quickly opened a drawer in the desk and took out a small, but fat, soft-backed, brown dictionary, laid it on the blotter, flopped it open somewhere in the ‘O’s, peered at it, slammed it shut, re-drawered it and slammed that shut too, and continued, ‘… found out that the cause of your happiness was…’
Tapthrow leaned forward across the desk and snatched up the doctor’s glasses in his left hand, held them up, and put the first and second fingers of his right hand through the eye-holes, and bent them and straightened them repeatedly in the way a crab might wave its claws to an acquaintance.
The doctor would smile warmly from now on; he held up both of his meaty hands, the palms facing Mr Tapthrow, and in a loud stage whisper said, ‘My dear Mr Kelly… ah, you have me at last… Your condition is far more serious than I at first…’
Suddenly there began a rhythmic thudding noise coming from under the desk.
‘What… what are you up to now Doctor?’ said Tapthrow, narrowing his eyes and almost breaking into a smile himself. The doctor’s face framed between his pink palms, which by now were pressing against his chubby cheeks, became much more stern.
‘I’m stamping my feet, left and right alternately, on the carpet.’ he said, and then smiled once again. Tapthrow lowered the spectacles and tossed them back onto the blotter, the doctor lowered his hands and picked them up carefully using the handkerchief as if he would really rather not touch them. The two men sat facing each other, nothing was said, but the under desk thudding continued; it neither sped up, nor slowed down, Doctor Although had immaculate control of tempo.
Tapthrow eventually spoke, ‘I suppose, now, that I should…’
The doctor raised a hand and cut off the sentence mid-flow, and said in a lower, serious, and more professional voice, ‘Mr Kelly, if you get up and leave now, whilst my rhythm is pounding, you need never come to see me again… you are completely cured…’
Tapthrow considered for a moment or two, and then made up his mind. He didn’t move. He knew in his heart that he wasn’t yet ready… He would stay…
Doctor Although stopped his thudding abruptly on an off-beat, frowned, and picked up the spectacles and handkerchief again to embark on some more careful polishing.
Veronica Crush. London. 2013.